In a bid to cement US President Barack Obama's foreign policy shift towards Cuba, the US government is working with the Cuban authorities to reach an agreement that would allow US citizens to fly on scheduled commercial flights between the two countries, the "Wall Street Journal" (WSJ) reported on Tuesday, citing US officials.
The Obama administration is also looking for ways to further ease travel restrictions faced by Americans to visit Cuba, according to the newspaper.
Tourist travel to Cuba for Americans is currently prohibited under US law. But in January this year, the US government relaxed travel restrictions to the island nation for educational, religious and humanitarian projects.
The news about regular flight service between the US and Cuba comes days after US Secretary of State John Kerry hoisted the American flag at the US embassy in Cuba for the first time in 54 years, marking the restoration of diplomatic ties between Washington and Havana.
Strong industry support
A bill is also pending in the US Senate to remove the travel ban on Americans and a more ambitious measure to rescind the decades-old US economic embargo. But the steps face strong opposition from the Republican leadership in control of the Senate and the House of Representatives.
US citizens currently going to Cuba for authorized reasons such as family or business visits travel there generally on charter flights.
And according to a Congressional Research Service report, an estimated 500,000 Americans travel from the US to Cuba each year.
The WSJ also said the US administration and the country's airline industry were united behind efforts to resume scheduled airline service to Cuba.
sri/hg (WSJ, Reuters)